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One thing you can count on if the Chicago Blackhawks don’t make the playoffs is a lot of looking back.
After falling 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings in the regular-season finale, the only way the Hawks make the playoffs is if the Minnesota Wild beat the Dallas Stars in the final game of the NHL regular season. A Dallas win would tie the Hawks in the standings and a second tiebreaker would give the edge to Dallas. (If Dallas wins in a shootout, the Hawks get in as well.)
It means one more point -- anywhere along the way -- would have done the Hawks a world of good.
“You can always look back at any game throughout any season that could have gone differently,” Patrick Kane said after the Detroit loss. “I guess at that point in time you’re not really as urgent or focused in getting those wins and how important they really are.”
No, the Hawks weren’t urgent. And a lot of those games were at home, where they lost 17 times. How about two against Edmonton and one against New Jersey when they were going bad or another versus Columbus late in the year? Three more losses against Colorado didn’t help either. Some of those teams finished the season near the Western Conference basement.
“We have no excuses, we put ourselves in this position and now we’re forced to sit and watch and hope it goes our way,” Patrick Sharp said.
A lack of urgency early in the year, and a lack of clutch play throughout, put the Hawks in the position they’re in. No less than 14 games were tied at some point in the third period and the Hawks couldn’t manage a point, let alone two. In fact, their 9-10-3 mark when knotted after two periods is one of the worst marks in the NHL. Considering the tight standings, it’s the story of the season.
“The first half of the year we had 10-12 games where we were tight in the third period and couldn’t even get it to overtime,” Joel Quenneville said. “Too many games where it looked like we should be getting something and we got nothing.”
Looking back at those games will only be painful but they’ll be a reminder that Game 1 counts as much as Game 82 in the salary cap era where parity rules. Hangovers are ok but this one lasted way too long. The Hawks didn’t kick it into gear until game 60.
“I never thought this was going to happen,” a stunned Jonathan Toews said. “Never does it enter your mind the fact that you may not make the playoffs … I can’t even believe we’re here right now. It’s so frustrating that it has to come down to this. I’m pretty much speechless…The fact that we’re completely at another team’s mercy right now, I can’t believe it.”
Neither can Hawks’ nation which sold out every game and yelled to the very last horn. Now they become Wild fans. And if things don’t go the Hawks’ way, they’ll be plenty of that looking back.
“Absolutely, how could you not?” Toews sighed.